studies in the history of science and culture
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© August 2005
revised 26 June 2008

Baroque-era printer's ornament

maps of colonial Virginia

Forthcoming exhibits

  • Hariot-White-de Bry map, “The arrival of the Englishemen in Virginia” (1590)
  • Robarte Tindall’s ms. “Draught of Virginia” (1608)
  • Ms. “Chart of Virginia” (aka the “Zuñiga Chart”), which illustrated Captain John Smith’s A True Relation (1608)
  • Captain John Smith’s “A Map of Virginia” (1612, 1624)
  • Captain John Smith’s ms. chart, “A description of the land of Virginia” (1618)
  • Captain John Smith’s map of “Ould Virginia” (1624)
  • Ralph Hall’s map of Virginia (1636)
  • Sir Robert Dudley’s map of Virginia (1646–7)
  • John Ogilby’s “Northerne part of Virginia” (1671)
  • John Ogilby’s “Nova Virginiae” (1671)

are intended to build a sociohistorical context for the Ferrar map of Virginia, by establishing the grounds of an ongoing conversation among cartographers of the region, including Virginia Ferrar. As always, I am most interested in matters of origins & influences.

TOPICS:  the map as “rhetorical hybrid” (a blend of description and desire); the integration of decorative elements (e.g., figures in native dress, flora and fauna, sea creatures, ships, ocean swells, inscriptions) which add to the information presented in the views and blur modern distinctions between measuring, recording, and picturing; the still-shifting orientation of 17th-century printed maps (north is not always at the top of the map); the search (spurred by East India Company, Virginia Company, and Russia Company officials) for a new trade route to China, by way of Virginia: according to the Ferrar map, the mythical “Sea of China” (aka the Sea of Verrazzano) was but “ten dayes march ... from the head of Jeames River”; possessive naming and toponymical flattery; mapping as “the imposition of a colonizing culture”; the cult and culture of improvement associated with the “publick-spirited Gentlemen” of the Hartlib-Wilkins-Petty circle; the origins and rise of “technocracy” (public policy become the captive of a scientific-technological elite); the use of maps for publicity & persuasion; maps as models of the collective intellectual

Baroque-era printer's ornament

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